Device may be alternative in the blind’s fight to see

Scientists may have found a way to rewire the brain to help the vision impaired. Photo: Dionne GainA device that helps people use sounds to build images in their brain could be used as an alternative to invasive treatment for the blind, scientists say.

The vOICe sensory substitution device trains the brain to turn sounds into images, allowing people to create a picture of the things around them.

Researchers at the University of Bath in Britain asked blindfolded sighted participants to use the device while taking an eye test. Results showed the participants – even without any training with the device – were able to achieve the best performance possible.

Michael Proulx, who led the university team, said: ”This level of visual performance exceeds that of the current invasive technique for vision restoration, such as stem cell implants and retinal prostheses after extensive training.

”Sensory substitution devices are not only an alternative but might also be best employed in combination with such invasive techniques to train the brain to see again or for the first time.”

Participants were asked to perform a standard eye chart test called the Snellen Tumbling E test, in which the letter E is viewed in different directions and sizes.

Normal, best-corrected visual acuity is considered 20/20, calculated in terms of the distance in feet and the size of the E on the eye chart. The participants were able to achieve the best performance possible, nearly 20/400.

”How well do you see what you hear? The acuity of visual-to-auditory sensory substitution” is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Press Association

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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